In a circular letter (4204/add.35) issued on 14 December, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim called on Member States that have not yet done so to take action as a matter of urgency.

Amid this unprecedented crisis, key worker designation for seafarers is essential to exempt them from specific COVID-related travel restrictions, allowing them to travel between their country of residence and ships, and to be repatriated at the end of their contracts. It could even play a key role in granting them priority access to safe vaccination.

The plight of stranded seafarers is highlighted in an IMO video featuring seafarers who describe the challenges they have faced due to the pandemic, and the impacts of the ongoing crew change crisis on their physical and mental health.

Resolutions urging Governments to designate seafarers as key workers have been adopted by IMO,  the United Nations General Assembly and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Member States are: Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece,  Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen. The Associate Member is Hong Kong (China).